Opioid overdose and addiction rates have been steadily increasing over the past decade. The over-prescribing of opioids and an influx of illegal opioids has contributed to the spike in addiction rates. For that reason, opioids often come with more scrutiny.

People who are struggling with opioid use disorder often attempt to get narcotics through legal means before turning to illicit sources. That could mean doctor shopping and reporting false pain symptoms. However, millions of people experience moderate-to-severe pain symptoms every year. If you’ve been experiencing pain symptoms and you’re looking for a solution, here are a few things you should know when speaking to your doctor about pain medications.

Be Careful When Using Opioids

Some doctors are thorough when evaluating whether opioids are right for you. Others dole out opioids as standard practice. Either way, it’s important for you to treat them with care. Never take more than directed and always contact your doctor before increasing the dose.

You should also avoid mixing the drug with alcohol or other depressants. Mixing the drug can lead to an overdose that can cause respiratory depression, coma, and death. Prolonged use of an opioid or high doses can cause chemical dependence or addiction. When taking an opioid, you should only take as much as needed to relieve your pain, even if you have been prescribed more.

Know What Kind of Pain You Have

There are two types of pain you might experience: chronic and acute. Acute pain is common after injuries and surgery. It’s temporary discomfort that you’ll experience as you recover from trauma. Chronic pain is any pain that lasts longer than three months. This kind of pain is common for people with neurological issues, injuries to the spine, cancer, autoimmune diseases, and other issues that cause long-term pain. Chronic pain may need more sophisticated management approaches than acute pain. Chronic pain may also mean taking pain medication for a long time, which can come with some side effects that you wouldn’t experience if you took the drug for a short time.

Know How to Describe Your Pain

Pain is often difficult to pinpoint. You may have pain symptoms for weeks and then find yourself at a loss for words when you’re sitting in front of the doctor. However, the details surrounding your pain symptoms may offer clues as to the nature of your problem and the correct medication that may help you. Your doctor may ask you when the pain started, where you feel the pain, does it change when you change positions, and many other questions. The National Institute on Aging has outlined some other questions you should think about concerning your pain symptoms.

Ask About Non-Opioid Options

Not all pain needs opioids. If you can avoid opioids by using an equally effective option, you may be able to avoid some uncomfortable symptoms.

Opioids are effective in treating pain by blocking pain signals. They don’t necessarily treat the source of the problem.

If your pain is caused by inflammation, an anti-inflammatory medication might be better at treating pain at the source.

Likewise, if you’ve been experiencing muscle tightness or spasms, muscle relaxants may be a better option.

Other treatments like physical and occupational therapy may help alleviate pain in conjunction with medication or without using medication.

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